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the people, a reunion with the States from which we have separated is neither practicable nor desirable. To increase the power, develop the resources, and promote the happiness of a confederacy, it is requisite that there should be so much of homogeneity that the welfare of every portion shall be the aim of the whole. Where this does not exist antagonisms are engendered, which must and should result in separation.
Actuated solely by the desire to preserve our own rights and promote our own welfare, the separation of the Confederate States has been marked by no aggression upon others, and followed by no domestic convulsion. Our industrial pursuits have received no check, the cultivation of our fields has progressed as heretofore, and even should we be involved in war, there would be no considerable diminution in the production of the staples which have constituted our exports, and in which the commercial world has an interest scarcely less than our own. This common interest of the producer and consumer can only be interrupted by an exterior force which should obstruct its transmission to foreign markets — a course of conduct which would be as unjust toward us as it would be detrimental to manufacturing and commercial interests abroad. Should reason guide the action of the Government from which we have separated, a policy so detrimental to the civilized world, the Northern States included, could not be dictated by even the strongest desire to inflict injury upon us; but otherwise a terrible responsibility will rest upon it, and the suffering of millions will bear testimony to the folly and wickedness of our aggressors. In the meantime there will remain to us, besides the ordinary means before suggested, the well-known resources for retaliation upon the commerce of the enemy. . . .
It is joyous, in the midst of perilous times, to look around upon a people united in heart, where one purpose of high resolve animates and actuates the whole; where the sacrifices to be made are not weighed in the balance against honor, and right, and liberty, and equality. Obstacles may retard, they cannot long prevent, the progress of a movement sanctified by its justice and sustained by a virtuous people. Reverently let us invoke the God of our fathers to guide and protect us in our efforts to perpetuate the principles which, by His blessing, they were able to vindicate, establish, and transmit to their posterity, and with a continuance of His favor ever gratefully acknowledged, we may hopefully look forward to success, to peace, and to prosperity.
The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Fourth Series (Washington, 1900), I, 104-106 passim.
CHAPTER XI- QUESTION OF COMPROMISE
63. A Basis of Reconciliation (1860)
BY THURLOW WEED
As a journalist and politician Weed exerted great influence in the Whig and Republican parties, especially in New York. He was Seward's warmest supporter and friend throughout the political career of the latter, and this utterance was supposed to reflect Seward's opinion. During the Civil War he was able, in an unoffi cial capacity, to perform valuable services for the Union cause, both at home and abroad. These extracts are from editorials in his paper, the Albany Evening Journal, under dates November 24 and 30, 1860.- For Weed, see T. W. Barnes, Memoir of Thurlow Weed; F. Bancroft, William H. Seward, passim.— Bibliography : Channing and Hart, Guide, § 207.
Augusta, Nov. 23, .
RESOLUTION was offered in the Georgia Legislature, demanding the repeal, by Northern States, of laws obstructing the rendition of fugitive slaves; also, an enactment of Congress for removing obstructions by Territories in the introduction of all property; such action being contingent on Georgia remaining in the Union.
Here is something tangible. It suggests a basis on which negotiations can be inaugurated. South Carolina goes ahead without "rhyme or reason." There, it is not Disunion for cause, but Disunion per se.
Assuming the possibility of coming together in a fraternal spirit for the purpose of effecting "a more perfect union among the states," we are not without hopes that the result may prove auspicious. With a mutual desire to harmonize differences, let us suppose that in the place of a vindictive Fugitive Slave Law a Law repugnant to manhood and honor one should be enacted which arms the Federal Authorities with all needful power for its execution, together with a provision making Counties where Fugitives are rescued by violence, from Officers who have them in charge, liable for the value of the Slaves so rescued.
And in regard to the other vexed question, viz: the right of going into the Territories with Slaves, why not restore the Missouri Compromise Line? That secured to the South all Territory adapted, by soil and climate, to its "peculiar institution." . . .
The suggestions, in a recent number of The Journal, of a basis of settlement of differences between the North and the South, have, in awakening attention and discussion, accomplished their purpose. We knew that in no quarter would these suggestions be more distasteful than with our own most valued friends. . . .
To our dissenting friends, who will not question our devotion to freedom, however much they may mistrust our judgment, we submit a few earnest admonitions :
1. There is imminent danger of a dissolution of the Union.
2. This danger originated in the ambition and cupidity of men who desire a Southern despotism; and in the fanatic zeal of Northern Abolitionists, who seek the emancipation of slaves regardless of consequences.
3. The danger can only be averted by such moderation and forbearance as will draw out, strengthen, and combine the Union sentiment of the whole country.
The Disunion sentiment is paramount in at least seven States; while it divides and distracts as many more. Nor is it wise to deceive ourselves with the impression that the South is not in earnest. It is in earnest; and the sentiment has taken hold of all classes with such blind vehemence as to "crush out" the Union sentiment.
Now, while, as has been said, it is easy to prove all this unjust and wrong, we have to deal with things as they are - with facts as they exist - with people blinded by passion. Peaceable Secession is not intended; nor is it practicable, even if such were its object. Mad, however, as the South is, there is a Union sentiment there worth cherishing. It will develop and expand as fast as the darkness and delusion, in relation to the feelings of the North, can be dispelled. This calls for moderation and forbearance. We do not, when our dwelling is in flames, stop to ascertain whether it was the work of an incendiary before we extinguish the fire. Hence our suggestions of a basis of adjustment, without the expectation that they would be accepted, in terms, by either section, but that they might possibly inaugurate a movement in that direction. The Union is worth preserving. And, if worth preserving, suggestions in its behalf, however crude, will not be contemned. A victorious party can afford to be tolerant - not, as our friends assume, in the abandonment or abasement of its principles or character-but in efforts to correct and disabuse the minds of those who misunderstand both.
Before a final appeal — before a resort to the "rough frown of war
we should like to see a Convention of the People, consisting of delegates appointed by the States. . . .
It will be said that we have done nothing wrong, and have nothing to offer. This, supposing it true, is precisely the reason why we should both propose and offer whatever may, by possibility, avert the evils of civil war, and prevent the destruction of our, hitherto, unexampled blessings of Union.
Many suppose that the North has nothing to lose by a division of the Union. Some even say that we must be gainers by it. We do not, for obvious reasons, intend to discuss this aspect of the question. But it is a mistake- a serious and expensive mistake. The North and South were wisely and by a good Providence united. Their interests, their welfare, their happiness, their glory, their destiny, is one. Separated, while the North languishes, the South becomes, first, a despotism, running riot, for a season, with unrestrained African Slavery, to share in time the fate of every tropical nation, whether despotism, monarchy, or republic. That fate, induced by the indolence, luxury, and laxity of the privileged few over the oppressed, degraded, and enslaved many, is anarchy and destruction. That fate is written in the history of all enslaved nations-its ancient, seared, and crumbling, but instructive, monuments are seen in Egypt, in Italy, in Central America, and in Mexico.
These are the evils- and they are not imaginary — that we desire to avert. But, conscious of the feebleness of a single voice in such a tempest, there is little to expect but to abide its peltings. The Republican party now represents one side of a controversy fraught with the safety and welfare of this Government and nation. As an individual, we shall endeavor to do our duty; and, as we understand it, that duty does not consist in folded arms, or sealed ears, or closed eyes. Even if . . . the North stands, in all respects, blameless in this controversy, much is needed to correct the impression of the Southern people; many of whom, truly informed, would join us in defending the Union. We do not mistake the mission of the Republican party in assuming that, while defending free territory from aggression, it maintains and upholds the supremacy of the Constitution and laws. The people have intrusted the Government to our keeping; and we must not abuse their confidence or disappoint their expectations.
Albany Evening Journal, November 24 and 30, 1860; reprinted (in part) in Horace Greeley, The American Conflict (Hartford, etc., 1864), I, 360–361.
64. Helplessness of the Administration (1860)
BY PRESIDENT JAMES BUCHANAN
Buchanan held many honorable positions under the United States government. When president, his subservience to the radical southern faction was early shown and extremely marked. Hence, when the crisis came, he found himself isolated and helpless, and sent the timid annual message to Congress from which this extract is taken. For Buchanan, see G. T. Curtis, Life of James Buchanan.— Bibliography as in No. 63 above.
7HY is it . . . that discontent now so extensively prevails, and the union of the States, which is the source of all these blessings is threatened with destruction?
The long continued and intemperate interference of the northern people with the question of slavery in the southern States has at length produced its natural effects.
Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and has been implanted in the heart of man by his Creator, for the wisest purpose; and no political union, however fraught with blessings and benefits in all other respects, can long continue, if the necessary consequence be to render the homes and the firesides of nearly half the parties to it habitually and hopelessly insecure. Sooner or later the bonds of such a Union must be severed. It is my conviction that this fatal period has not yet arrived; and my prayer to God is, that he would preserve the Constitution and the Union throughout all generations.
But let us take warning in time, and remove the cause of danger. It cannot be denied that for five and twenty years the agitation at the North against slavery has been incessant. . . .
How easy would it be for the American people to settle the slavery question forever, and to restore peace and harmony to this distracted country! They, and they alone, can do it. All that is necessary to accomplish the object, and all for which the slave States have ever contended, is to be let alone and permitted to manage their domestic institutions in their own way. As sovereign States, they and they alone are responsible before God and the world for the slavery existing among them. For this the people of the North are not more responsible, and have no more right to interfere, than with similar institutions in Russia or in Brazil.
Upon their good sense and patriotic forbearance, I confess, I still greatly rely. Without their aid it is beyond the power of any President, no matter what may be his own political proclivities, to restore peace